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OLD MAN MOTOR CAR

Czechoslovakia, 1957 (MIFF 1960, Programme 3)

Director: Alfred Radok

It started at the turn of the century. In those days the first cycles were launched on the roads, cycles "which went under their own steam even uphill". These were the first motorcycles and soon after followed the first motorcars. This was an invention which was to change the course of history. Like everything new, these inventions too had many failures but also many triumps, many opponents but also many supporters. The film Old Man Motor Car tells the story of these clumsy vehicles, with the makes Laurin, Velox and Torpedo. The plot is centred on the races which were held at Gaillon and Dourdan in France. There for the first time motorcycles and motorcars stated and even reached the goal. In 1904 the Czech mechanic Frantik met there the young French girl Nanette - leading characters in the film. It was love at first sight. They had to overcome language difficulties and exchanged letters with the help of a dictionary. They met one year later at the second races and again, the following year, until they had a wonderful wedding in 1909 at the Gaillon races. Their wedding guests were all motoring fans of those days and Nanette was the first bride to drive away from the church in a motorcar.

The fine period sense of this film is aided by a rich source of silent newsreel material which introduces the early development of the motorcycle and motorcar inventions.

Visually the film is always attractive and with its gentle charm it is most appealing. In this it rather resembles a work by Rene Clair and its recreation of Paris of days gone by brings to mind Les Belles de Nuits and the presence of Raymond Bussieres (one of Clair's old faithfuls) heightens this resemblance.

The love affair is handled with delicacy and contributes to the pleasant international flavour. Of course the Czechs win in the end, but not at all brashly.

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